Which Teams Face The Toughest Starts in the Premier League?
Manchester City may have missed out on last season's league title to Liverpool, but Pep Guardiola's side have a favourable start to the 2020/21 campaign.
Based on the final league positions from last season, 8/11 title favourites City have the fourth easiest run of games to get their Premier League programme up and running.
However, they will be playing catch-up after their opening day fixture against Aston Villa at the Etihad was postponed to give City's players a minimum 30-day rest from the end of their last campaign, which ended with defeat to Lyon in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The Citizens will therefore start their campaign at Wolves one week after Liverpool get their season up and running with newly-promoted Leeds visiting Anfield on Saturday, September 12.
Last season's runners-up avoid any of the sides that finished in the top four with a home game with Leicester the highest-placed opponent City are scheduled to face in their opening six fixtures and they will be aiming to take maximum points from those games to help wrestle the title back from Liverpool.
After welcoming Leeds back to the league, Liverpool face Chelsea and Arsenal in back-to-back games as well as travelling to Everton in the first Merseyside derby of the season, which will be early tests to their title defence and perhaps offer City hope that points will be dropped by the champions.
Toughest Premier League Starts 2020-21*
|Difficulty Rank||Team||Average Finishing Position of First Six Opponents|
City's neighbours United, who will also start their campaign a week later following their exit from the Europa League at the quarter-final stage, need to improve on the start they made to last season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side won just two of their opening nine matches which ultimately ended their title hopes before Christmas. The bad news for Solskjaer is that they have the most difficult start to the season of the sides who finished in the top seven with home games against Tottenham and Chelsea the stand-out fixtures.
United – as well as City – will have had a considerably shorter break from football than the champions. When Liverpool face Leeds United this weekend, Jurgen Klopp's men will have gone 47 days without kicking a ball competitively while City and United will return to action 35 and 34 days respectively following their European exits.
For the second successive season, Liverpool will begin their campaign at home against the reigning Championship winners and after beating Norwich 4-1 to start their historic title-winning season last year, they will hope to collect their first three points against Marcelo Bielsa's side.
It's the first time in 16 years the Elland Road club find themselves back in the top flight and the fixture computer has not been kind to them.
Clashes against Liverpool and Manchester City in their first six games means their start is ranked fourth most difficult. Only Aston Villa, Arsenal and West Ham have a tougher start with all three teams facing last season's champions and runners-up within their first six games.
Kindest Early-Season Run-Ins
Fulham, who returned to the Premier League after beating Brentford in the Championship play-off final, have been blessed with what appears to be a favourable start to the season.
They don't face a team that finished in the top six until they travel to Leicester on November 28 which is scheduled to be their 10th game.
Wolves can put the disappointment of missing out on European football behind them by concentrating on mounting a challenge to finish in the top four if not higher.
Nuno Espirito Santo's side have been handed the easiest run of games to start their third season back in the Premier League.
While they face Manchester City in their home opener, they meet two of the three promoted sides – Fulham and Leeds – as well as a trip to West Ham who finished 16th last season.
The Hammers lost just one of their last seven matches to pull away from the relegation zone and they will hope to take that momentum into the new campaign.
But it could be a difficult start for David Moyes' side who face five of last season's top eight in their opening six matches.
Aston Villa avoided relegation on the final day of last season and they face a tricky start to their second campaign back in the Premier League.
While they were to face Manchester City in their opener, Dean Smith's side will now start their campaign at home to Sheffield United before Liverpool travel to Villa Park on October 3.
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